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On-the-go pizzeria

Giovanni’s introduces food truck at Newton Farmers’ Market

While his colleagues wrote down orders and made freshly prepared pizza slices and fried onion rings, pickles and cauliflower, Jeffrey Lee was handing out free samples to passersby on the town square and letting people know that a more than 50-year-old small business in Newton has a food truck.

Lee’s methods seemed to work spectacularly as more and more people began lining up to try the signature eats of Giovanni’s, who, along with its partner Whitmore’s Riverbottom Farms, unveiled its mobile pizzeria to locals during the Newton Farmers’ Market Tuesday afternoon.

“I think this is great,” Lee said with a small basket of onion rings in hand. “We’re getting out to the public where some people can’t always come into the restaurant, so we can get out to the public and have a bigger experience with them. I think it’s a great deal, I really do.”

Doug Whitmore, of Whitmore’s Riverbottom Farms, said Giovanni’s staff has been planning a food truck for some time to showcase the pizzeria’s growing interests of a more farm-to-table approach to business operations. Their convictions are even printed on the side of the food truck: fresher, healthier, local.

Adapting to the food truck trend does more than just introduce (or even re-introduce) Giovanni’s to residents on the other side of town, it is also the restaurant’s first step to selling its signature pizzas and other menu items online and may be considered a testing ground for its upcoming take-and-bake efforts.

“The food truck became a part of the process this spring because we wanted to be able to get public and establish all of this in different areas so people would know more about our products,” Whitmore said before the food truck rolled its way downtown. “It’s also to promote new products.”

Utilizing farm fresh ingredients for its deep-fried appetizers generated the first bit of traffic to the food truck with the help of Lee’s free sample marketing strategy. Giovanni’s originally debuted its food truck in Marshalltown, allowing staff to work out the kinks and develop a pace for ordering.

The Giovanni’s food truck will be available at the subsequent Newton Farmers’ Markets beginning 4 p.m. Tuesdays north of the Jasper County Courthouse. Whitmore is excited for the truck to change the atmosphere of the farmers’ market, which Newton Main Street Executive Director Erin Yeager says it certainly has.

“I’m hoping it will bring flow of traffic through here,” Yeager said. “It gets more people excited. Maybe people who are getting off work can grab a bite to eat here and with keeping the music playing it may bring more of a crowd to downtown. Hopefully we can mix in more (food trucks) next year.”

Having the food truck available in the farmers’ market next to vendors selling their homemade goods and home-grown produce aligns with the message Giovanni’s staff wants to convey to the public.

Whitmore added, “We’re all about trying to change for the future and getting the public to understand that this is about having better tomatoes on the pizzas or better pizza sauce and all that stuff. Are we starting to make a connection? Is the public starting to identify with it a little bit?”

All he has to judge by are the smiling faces of those snacking on sliced pizza and fried pickles. A good start.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or

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